If you are planning a trip to Sedona, AZ you will probably want to plan a few days to hike some of Sedona’s best trails including the Boynton Canyon Subway Trail. There are a lot of fantastic hiking trails in Sedona such as Soldier’s Pass, Cathedral Rock, and the sacred Birthing Cave but the Sedona cave trails are some of my favorites.
The Sedona Subway Cave, also known as the Boynton Trail Cave is a pretty easy trail with only one short scramble to reach the stunning views from the top of the cave. Finding the Subway Cave in Sedona can be a little challenging as the trail is not officially marked. It took me backtracking just a bit to finally reach the base of the cave but if you follow this guide you should have no issues finding the Sedona Subway Cave on your first try.
Know Before You Go
The Boynton Cave trail is one of Sedona’s most popular hikes and can get quite busy during the high season, March to May and September to mid-December. Although crowds are fewer, temps are extremely hot in summer, and hiking is not recommended.
The trail is pretty covered most of the way but can still get very warm on hot days so make sure to bring plenty of water, and sunscreen and wear proper hiking clothes and shoes.
SHOP MY FAVORITE HIKING ESSENTIALS
Boyton Canyon Trail is known for its powerful vortexes, which are points of energy said to have healing powers. They are located along the vista trail. Take the Vista Trail to the end to experience the feminine vortex, Kachina, and the masculine vortex knoll.
The Sedona Subway Cave is in an area of spiritual significance that should be respected at all times. Do not remove anything from the area, make rock piles or graffiti rocks. Stay on trails and always abide by the Leave No Trace Principles.
There is also a cliff dwelling located near the Subway Cave. You can walk to it from the top of the cave. It is a sacred site with ancient ruins so please treat it with respect. Do not take anything from the cave or rearrange the rocks.
You will need a Red Rocks Pass or an America the Beautiful Pass to park at the trailhead lot. You can buy a Red Rocks Pass on the machine at the trailhead for $5 a day (credit card only) or purchase online with your license plate number. They sell weekly ($15) and monthly ($20) passes. One Red Rocks Pass is good for multiple areas and parking lots for the life of your pass.
Where to park for the Boynton Canyon/ Subway Cave Sedona Trail
There is a paved parking lot at the trailhead for the Boynton Canyon trail off of Boyton Canyon Road. The parking lot holds about 25 cars and fills up fast. I started my hike at 7 am in April and 1/2 of the lot was already full.
There is also overflow parking along Boyton Pass Road.
There is a vault toilet in the paved parking lot.
Remember to get a Red Rocks Pass before leaving your car in designated hiking and wilderness areas. Use this site to check the list of all the parking areas that require a Red Rock Pass.
Boynton Canyon to Subway Cave Stats
Distance: 5.3 miles round trip
Route Type: Out and Back
Length of Time: 3-5 hours
Elevation Gain: 600 ft
Parking: Paved lot at Boynton Canyon Trailhead with Red Rocks or America the Beautiful Pass
Dogs: Dogs are allowed with a leash
Permit: No permit required
Hiking the Subway Cave Sedona
There is one main trail, The Boynton Canyon Trail, and two spur trails along this route. One is for the Boynton Vista trail and the other is for the Subway Cave.
Since it is an out-and-back trail, you have the option of hiking the entire Boynton Canyon trail and tacking on both (or one) spur trail (s) (7.5 miles round trip for both) or just hiking the portion of the Boynton Canyon trail that leads to the Subway Cave (5.3 miles). I only hiked to the Subway Cave because I was pressed for time but I heard the Vista Spur Trail (also called the Vortex Trail) is worth the trek for the beautiful views and the two vortexes at the end.
The Boynton Canyon Trail by itself is 6.1 miles round trip and takes about 3-6 hours to complete.
The Vista Spur Trail is 0.4 miles round trip and the Subway Cave Spur Trail is 0.65 miles round trip from the turn-off on the main Boynton Canyon Trail. See the map below for a better understanding of how the trails intersect with each other and best areas to park.
The start of the Boynton Canyon trail is easy to locate in the trailhead parking lot. There will be a little bit of incline over a rocky path at the start of the hike but nothing too serious.
To get to the Sedona Subway Cave follow the signs for the Boynton Canyon Trail. After about two miles of hiking turn right onto the spur trail.
The spur trail is marked by a large Juniper tree nicknamed “the alligator tree” because of its textured bark. This tree stands out as the surrounding foliage is mostly short and bushy. This tree is the only thing marking the trailhead to the Subway Spur Trail. The tree is on the left side of the trail and the spur trail is just ahead on the right side. It is a clear trail and is slightly narrower than the main Boynton Canyon Trail. There may be fallen branches that you will have to walk over at the start of the spur trail.
There are a few more turns along this trail before you reach the Subway Cave. The total trail one way is 0.3 miles.
Once you come to a small creek make sure to turn right to stay on the spur trail. Another trail will be on the left but this is not the trail to the Subway Cave. I made a mistake and took this trail on my first attempt to reach the caves and after about 10- 15mins mins of walking, I came to a dead end and turned back.
Once you turn right near the creek continue following the path. There will be some uphill climb but after about 10 mins you should see the face of the cave in front of you. Snake your way around to reveal the cave opening. There is a slanted rock that you will have to climb up to enter the cave.
The best views are from inside the cave looking out onto the canyon. It’s a moderate climb and can be slippery when wet but is well worth the effort. With proper hiking shoes and good grips, the scramble-up should be pretty easy.
Enjoy the cave from the top but be prepared for crowds. This cave can get pretty busy but everyone is respectful and helpful with photos.
Once at the top you can walk along the wall to the right and check out some of the cave dwellings. These dwellings are where Native Americans once lived and are considered sacred so please respect the land and do not take anything, graffiti on any rocks, move or stack any rocks.
When you are ready to leave head back the way you came. You can head back to the parking lot or opt to turn right when the spur trail meets up with the Boynton Canyon trail and finish the full Boynton Canyon Trail. It will be another mile to the end of the trail and it is uphill.
If you didn’t do the Vista/Vortex spur trail in the beginning you can also do it now as you head back to the parking lot. It only adds .4 miles on to the hike and the Vista Views are worth it!
I hope you found this guide easy to understand. The Subway Cave in Sedona is truly spectacular. The vista views and ancient ruins make this hike more unique than many other cave hikes in Sedona. On my visit I met about 8 people in the cave and everyone was so aw struct and appreciative of their surroundings it made the hike that much better.
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